tenant screening

Tenant Screening – Know Your Rights

Tenant screening is part of the tenant application process. In the same way that you would want to rent a home that best suits your needs, the landlord or property owner would want a tenant who would best take care of his or her home. Although the process involves the submission of documents, reference checks and due diligence, a landlord can basically do whatever he or she wants to select the best tenant among all the applicants. However, these must be done in a non- discriminatory manner. In tenant screening, you should know your rights.

The Right to Inspect the Premises

The tenant screening process starts the day you first visit the property. As a prospective tenant you should be given the right to inspect the premises. After all, if selected as the lessee, you will be paying for the use of the property. You have to know what you will be paying your hard earned money for.

If you have no experience checking the condition of a property for lease, bring someone who does. It could be an architect, interior designer, engineer or general contractor. Make sure all observations are noted down and summarized.

Even if finding a home to lease is a top priority, you should not hesitate in bringing up these concerns to the landlord. It is his job to get the place in tenable condition before turning it over to the lessee.

The Right to Explain Documents and Conditions

Once you have decided on a property to lease, you shall be asked by the landlord or real estate agent to submit documents. The documents requested by a landlord may differ from another but generally these include the following:

  • Proof of Identification: Driver’s License or Passport
  • Bank Statements
  • List of References: Previous landlord, supervisor, loan officer, social workers
  • Certificate of Employment or Copy of Employment Contract
  • Pay slips for the last 3 months
  • Rental Ledger
  • Credit Card
  • Utility Bill
  • Phone Bill

The landlord will have these documents verified. Usually they will use the services of an online tenant screening agency. These services are very easy to use; the landlord only has to upload the application form online and the tenant screening agency will run the necessary verification processes. Results are also fast. Typically, a landlord will receive a report from the tenant screening agency within 4 hours.

If you know of irregularities or information on any of the documents that could potentially be considered a red flag on your application, you should discuss these issues with the landlord before verification is conducted. The landlord should not take this against you.

Oftentimes, a status report on a document will be presented in general form without the pertinent details. You should be given the right to state your case and the opportunity to explain your side before a decision on your application is rendered.

The Right to be Investigated

Verification of the list of referrals is a crucial step in the tenant screening process. The landlord would be very interested to know your history as a tenant.

  • Were you a trouble maker?
  • Were you involved in untoward incidents?
  • Were you chronically late in making payments?
  • Did your stay result in damages to the place?
  • Was your behavior detrimental to the neighbors?

You can be sure the landlord would reach out to your previous lessor. Execute a privacy consent form to allow your landlord to contact the people in your referral list.

The Right to be Respected

Landlords are individuals with their own individual traits, characteristics and nuances. Their perspectives are shaped and influenced by their experiences. It is highly possible that their decision- making is skewed toward a set of beliefs or fears, misguided or not.

You should remain vigilante toward your rights to be respected regardless of your beliefs, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, race or nationality, gender and age.

While the landlord has the right and will use whatever means necessary to screen applicants as he or she sees fit, the screening process which may include an interview should not cause discomfort or appear blatantly discriminatory.

If the line of questioning begins to make overt assumptions on your character, call the landlord’s attention right away. In as civil a way as possible, inform the landlord that while you understand the concerns, you resent the seeming lack of objectivity even if these are purely conjecture.

The Right to be Reimbursed

A landlord may require you to pay an option fee. Generally, an option fee is goodwill money that is paid to cover the period where the landlord verifies your application and submitted documents.

If you are awarded the lease to the premises, the option fee should be paid back to you or offset from future rental payments.

If your application has been declined, the option fee should be paid back to you in full within 5 to 7 days.

Tenant screening may not be a comfortable situation but it is part of the selection process. It may seem like a lot of trouble just for finding a place to stay but everyone else will be subject to screening. If the process does not go your way, keep looking. You are bound to find a landlord who will see you as right-fit for his property.